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Increasing Relevance of the Network

The network provides the capabilities and analytics that allow the cloud provider to allay the fears of the CIO. So far, this chapter explored the network’s pivotal role in spurring the adoption of the cloud, enabling organizations to migrate more and more of their core workloads to the cloud today. And as we look ahead, the network is poised to play an even more crucial role in future clouds.

World of Many Clouds

A variety of clouds exist today: public, private, and hybrid clouds, along with community and specialty clouds to address the needs of different business verticals such as healthcare, media, finance, or government. As illustrated in Figure 4-2, we are moving toward a world of many interconnected clouds, serving the needs of users who want to experience cloud services anywhere, at any time, and on any device, and of businesses, which want IT to be delivered as a service.

Figure 4.2

Figure 4-2. World of Many Clouds (Source: Cisco)

In this multicloud world, the network’s role is significantly expanded because these clouds need to securely connect to each other. In addition, massive amounts of infrastructure resources, along with applications and content, need to be combined and delivered on demand, to provide a secure and consistent user experience regardless of the user location and number of cloud platforms involved. The network fabric enables bringing together these capabilities dynamically, virtualizing connections within the cloud, between clouds, and beyond the clouds to the consumers.

An Even Larger Cloud

Over the past few years, there has been an explosion in the number and types of consumer and business mobile devices, sensors, and actuators, many of which are now connected to the network. Although we tend to think so, clouds are not limited to the servers in data centers. In fact, the cloud extends out to all these network-connected electronic devices, smart meters, and other sensors, as illustrated in Figure 4-3. When you put it all together, it is easy to see that this is an even larger cloud on the horizon, with billions of network-connected components.

Figure 4.3

Figure 4-3. Cloud of Mobile Consumer Devices and Sensor Devices (Source: J. Rabaey, “A Brand New Wireless Day”)

Consider the dozens of sensor devices running inside modern cars today. With 3G/4G mobile data connectivity enabling machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, sensor devices can monitor and share vehicle performance data with the car manufacturer, who can then use it to suggest appropriate maintenance or repairs. Or consumers might want their car to communicate with other cars around them, over an ad hoc local network, and learn about road and traffic conditions up ahead. Security is obviously critical here. After all, we would not like untrusted parties gaining access to these devices, with perhaps the ability to start interfering with brakes or other vehicle safety features. The possibilities are endless, and as you can see, dynamic, scalable, and secure networks have an increasingly vital role to play in the cloud in the years ahead. These futuristic clouds are further explored in Chapter 13, “Peeking into the Future.”

Growth of Cloud Data Traffic

Consumer and business cloud services, including rich-media services, keep growing in popularity, leading to an explosion in data center traffic. According to Cisco’s Global Cloud Index, cloud IP traffic is expected to grow at 66 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2010 to 2015, which is twice the 33 percent CAGR expected for overall data center IP traffic during the same period. As illustrated in Figure 4-4, overall data center traffic volume is expected to reach 4.8 zettabytes in 2015. And cloud traffic is expected to be over a third of that pie (1.6 zettabytes). (A zettabyte is a billion terabytes; the number 1 followed by 21 zeros!)

Figure 4.4

Figure 4-4. Data Center Traffic Quadruples from 2010 to 2015. Cloud Traffic Is Expected to Be Just over One Third of the Data Center Traffic in 2015. (Source: Cisco Cloud Index)

Let’s try to put 1.6 zettabytes in perspective. This is the equivalent of 5 trillion hours of business web conferencing or 1.6 trillion hours of HD video streaming. Another interesting comparison is with the overall global Internet traffic, which in 2015 is expected to be just under 1 zettabyte, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI).

In addition to the mind-boggling growth in traffic volumes, cloud applications, services, and infrastructure are responsible for transforming the pattern of data center traffic flows. Cloud-ready networks inside data centers, between data centers, and from data center to users will play an increasingly crucial role in terms of scaling efficiently to handle this growth in cloud data traffic and maintain profitability for the cloud providers without compromising the end-user experience.

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